A grim view of the NHLPA and where the NHL is headed

If you haven’t gotten to following the New York Post’s Larry Brooks by now, it’s tough to say you’re keeping tabs on the NHL very closely. Ever since the NHL stepped up to challenge the NHLPA over Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract, Brooks has been the lone voice amongst team scribes to express what a dire situation this is for the players association. In his column today, he again picks up his journalistic drumsticks and continues the drum beat declaring doom and gloom on the horizon for the NHL and its players this time based around the NHLPA quibbling over attorney costs to fight the Kovalchuk grievance.

Indeed, Slap Shots has learned that union front-office personnel, including Fehr, expressed concern over the cost of attorneys’ fees in the Kovalchuk arbitration before turning to John McCambridge, a Saskin loyalist, who had been part of the 2004-05 negotiating committee but had not been involved in union business in years and who was no match at all for the estimable Bob Batterman, the league’s Crosby/Ovechkin among its stable of all-star lawyers.

It is stunning that Fehr was unable to recognize that the price of victory would be nothing compared to the cost of defeat. It is outrageous that the union would have quibbled over the equivalent of pennies when weighed against the nullification of a $102 million contract of one of its dues-paying, escrow-contributing marquee members.

It is, however, indicative of the headless operation that seems simply to be awaiting the slaughter in the next round of collective bargaining two years hence.

This is what happens when the union spends its resources looking behind and fighting old battles instead of preparing for the future and a new engagement against an all-powerful commissioner who remains ruthlessly committed to his vision of a hard-cap, lowest-common-denominator league.

Cold, harsh words from a writer who is very easily the biggest supporter of the NHLPA in all of the media. While we understand that talking about a potentially ugly labor war two years away from it happening may not be fun to read, nor may it be all that engaging, it’s better to have the discussion out there. Even though it’s a case of millionaires squabbling with billionaires over a Scrooge McDuck-sized pile of money, it cuts to the heart of the matter that this is a sport we all enjoy watching that gets spoiled by wealthy folks fighting over who gets more money and the only people that lose in a labor war are the fans.

After all, it was the fans that missed out watching hockey back in 2004-2005 when the owners locked out the players to crush them in labor negotiations and when they settled on things a year and half later, the fans were promised ticket price rollbacks and all sorts of other things to win them over again. While the game has again been made enjoyable to watch thanks to the league mostly adhering to its own rule book again, making the game cost friendly for fans never came. Ticket prices stayed the same or went up dramatically, the cost of merchandise is higher than it ever was and all this goes on while North America has dealt with an economic crunch that leaves regular folks with less flexible income. Yet here the fans are making sure that attendance is as good as it ever was for the most part. Perhaps we all deserve each other so let’s just forget about that potential labor war in 2012 and just feel free to call each other suckers instead.

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    It’s Columbus Blue Jackets day at PHT

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets made franchise history last season, reaching 50 wins and 108 points in a highly competitive Metropolitan Division.

    Their campaign included a winning streak of 16 games and putting up 10 goals against the Montreal Canadiens. Consider last season a sizable step forward for this young group and a bounce-back year for goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, the Vezina Trophy winner.

    Not only was their goalie recognized, but coach John Tortorella won the Jack Adams Award — several months after oddsmakers stated he’d be the first coach fired last season.

    Despite a terrific regular season, the Blue Jackets were bested in the opening round by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who would eventually move on to win the Stanley Cup.

    Following their playoff defeat, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen pulled off a blockbuster deal with Chicago GM Stan Bowman, as Columbus acquired 2016 rookie of the year Artemi Panarin, forward Tyler Motte and a draft pick in exchange for Brandon Saad, goalie Anton Forsberg and a draft pick next year.

    In Panarin, the Blue Jackets get a 25-year-old forward that has reached the 30-goal mark in each of his first two NHL seasons while getting to play on a line with Patrick Kane in Chicago. He also has two more years remaining on his current contract, which carries an annual $6 million cap hit, per CapFriendly.

    Columbus also acquired Jordan Schroeder from the Wild and signed him to a two-year contract extension, and bought out veteran forward Scott Hartnell. On Monday, the Blue Jackets signed college free agent defender Doyle Somerby.

    Right now, the Blue Jackets still have two restricted free agents in Josh Anderson and Alexander Wennberg to get signed.

    Today at PHT, we’ll discuss the key storylines facing the Blue Jackets as training camp approaches.

     

    Weight hopes Eberle can re-discover ‘eye of the tiger’ with Islanders

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    This post is part of Islanders Day on PHT…

    Jordan Eberle had a difficult season at times in 2016-17.

    Yet he still managed to score 20 goals, hitting that mark for a fourth consecutive season and fifth time in six years. (He put up 34 goals in 2011-12.)

    You can understand why having a skilled winger to perhaps play alongside center John Tavares — at least that’s the expectation prior to training camp — would be intriguing for head coach Doug Weight as the new season approaches.

    “Jordan, to me, is really, really exciting,” Weight recently told the NHL Network.

    Eberle’s first foray into playoff hockey was a struggle, as he recorded only two assists in 13 post-season games and the Oilers made it to the second round.

    And that is where Weight’s extended comments get interesting, because it sounds like the 27-year-old forward’s confidence took a bit of a hit during his final campaign in Edmonton and, in particular, during the playoffs, when his offensive production wasn’t there and the public scrutiny intensified.

    Several weeks later, Eberle was traded to the Islanders.

    “I want him to come in with that eye of the tiger; that fire back that sometimes gets lost,” Weight continued. “It’s tough. You can get cemented in certain roles, you can have some tough times. But Jordan still produced. He’s a helluva talent and I’m excited to get that confidence back in him and excited for him to get here.”

    It didn’t take long after the trade for discussions about a possible Eberle-Tavares reunion to begin. Playing for Team Canada, they combined for a thrilling tying goal against Russia in the dying seconds of the 2009 World Juniors semifinal.

    One of the Islanders’ top priorities is to get Tavares secured to a new contract, as he enters the final year of his current deal.

    Adding a proven scoring winger to Tavares’ line may also help the team’s captain rebound from a season in which his bottom-line production dropped as well, which would certainly boost the Islanders’ chances of getting back to the playoffs.

    “[Eberle’s] bringing a right-handed shot as a forward that can obviously shoot and score from anywhere,” Islanders forward Anders Lee recently told NHL.com.

    “He’s a playmaker out on the ice and sees the ice extremely well. He can add some extra threats for us on the power play that can really help elevate us.”

    Report: Rangers among ‘final two or three teams’ in running to sign Kerfoot

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    One of the big issues facing the Rangers this offseason was about depth up the middle.

    New York could take a step in addressing that, with a potential solution in college free agent Alex Kerfoot, the former New Jersey Devils draft pick who decided to test the open market.

    From the New York Post:

    The Rangers are among the final two or three teams under consideration by Harvard free-agent center Alex Kerfoot, The Post has learned.

    J.P. Barry, the 23-year-old center’s agent who confirmed the parties’ mutual interest, told The Post that Kerfoot likely would reach a decision no later than Tuesday following a weekend of reflection.

    The Rangers traded Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes and lost Oscar Lindberg in the expansion draft, leaving them in a difficult spot at center heading into the summer months.

    Now 23 years old, Kerfoot played four years at Harvard University — the same school as Jimmy Vesey, who became a college free agent last summer and signed with the Rangers — and had a terrific senior year. He put up 16 goals and 45 points and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

    The Rangers are facing competition to land Kerfoot, who is from Vancouver and played his junior hockey in nearby Coquitlam. The Canucks are reportedly still in consideration, as well.

    According to agent J.P. Barry, Kerfoot and the Canucks management group reportedly had a “productive” meeting last week.

    Luongo: ‘I haven’t had any issues’ in return from injury

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    Roberto Luongo continues preparations for the upcoming season, after an injury cut his 2016-17 campaign short.

    Luongo’s last game was on March 2. He didn’t play again after that due to reported aggravation of a previous hip injury that had required surgery.

    However, per the Miami Herald on Monday, the 38-year-old netminder has returned to the ice. Luongo then gave a promising update on his status with training camp approaching in a few weeks.

    “It’s good to be able to get back to my regular summer training program. This is my second week … everything feels great and I haven’t had any issues. That’s good,” Luongo told the Miami Herald.

    “It’s comforting mentally to know I can go through a rigorous workout and go all out and not have any issues nor think about it. That’s a big first step for me after going through the ups-and-downs of having to deal with my issue last year. It’s nice to have that piece of mind.”

    Luongo appeared in 40 games for Florida last season. He still has five years remaining on his contract, which carries an annual cap hit of $5.333 million, per CapFriendly. James Reimer, in his first season with the Panthers after signing there for five years and $17 million, played in 43 games with a sound .920 save percentage.

    Once heavily relied upon as a workhorse netminder, starting a career high 75 games one year in Vancouver, the reality is Luongo has a lot of mileage on him and is approaching 40 years of age. As he comes back from this latest injury and considering his age, it will be interesting to see exactly how many starts he gets and who will emerge as the No. 1 goalie in Florida over the course of this upcoming season.

    “Listen, this has always been his team,” Panthers goalie coach Robb Tallas told the Miami Herald. “But everyone these days has to manage time better, not just us. Roberto can’t play 60, 65 games a season any more. Reimer shouldn’t either. It only gets tougher every year.”